Author Bio ▼

Dr Flis has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and is passionate about helping people who lead and work in organisations create better workplace experiences and improving work cultures. Get free resources and tactics on appropriately dealing with negative online and offline workplace behaviours at or contact Dr Flis at[email protected] or  LinkedIn. You can also follow Dr Flis on her blog Twitter or Facebook.
November 1, 2017

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A New Hope: Building better workplaces for everyone

In her latest article, Dr Felicity Lawrence looks at a revolutionary approach to the senior management of a workforce.

True Story

When I landed my first senior management role I found myself in a new organisation leading seven teams. In that first week I was excited, nervous and keen to prove myself. I arranged to meet each of my direct reports individually over a coffee during the second week.

By the end of the second week, I wondered whether I was up for the job.

Each conversation started innocuously enough. I’d ask everyone how they and their teams were travelling, what other resources were needed, and generally take a bit of time to get to know one another. As most of you probably know, if these sorts of conversations work out well then what tends to happen is that, while you might start talking about work issues, what you actually end up talking about are life issues. Especially if you shut up and, you know…listen.

What I heard during these meetings changed me perspective on my role at work, because I suddenly realised for the first time that each individual I was dealing with was in fact the ‘face’ of a whole family. And that these families were suffering. Without going into the details, one person was suffering the after effects of cancer treatment, another was dealing with a terminally ill child. Another was desperately coping with family violence. One amazing person told me they’d recently dealt with the fact that they’d been abused by their father and was now taking him to court.

Just Be There And Support Them

I remember arriving home that second Friday evening, and saying to my husband that maybe I wasn’t ready for this promotion. Everyone seemed too broken and I felt overwhelmed. After listening to me, and thinking for a moment or two, my husband said, ‘Your people don’t want you to fix them or their lives. They just want you to be there and support them.’ From that moment, I decided I would simply be there for these wonderful people.

I heard Simon Sinek say something similar the other day in his ‘Living with a purpose changes everything’ video, ‘That you will only find peace of mind when you are willing to serve those that serve others’.

This is revolutionary thinking, especially within our outcomes focused, KPI driven, competitive workplaces.

Good Working Relationships Act As Social Glue

It also aligns with one of my pretty elementary PhD findings: Respectful behaviours, communication and attitudes foster good working relationships. These relationships act as social glue, which binds everything and everyone together, especially in tough times. Good working relationships keep things moving.

Numerous studies (Biron et al, 2013; Cortina et al., 2001; Osatuke et al., 2009) have consistently found that, even if you didn’t like the individuals you’re working with, when people treat one another with respect and courtesy it tends to foster healthier, more engaged people and productive workplaces. Similar studies have found that respectful conduct and attitudes are fundamental to shaping good organisational outcomes, job satisfaction, stress levels, and well-being.

And yet, no-one seems to know how to build these behaviours and attitudes in workplaces.

We’re all desperately worried about the levels of bullying, cyberbullying and harassment and e-stalking, and the impact on well-being, mental health and productivity. But, how do you prevent or disrupt entrenched bad behaviours and replace them with healthy, respectful and compassionate ones? Is it up to each person to go it alone and stop the intimidation, bullying and harassment, or is it up to everyone in the workplace?

And if you’re currently dealing with a ‘bully dense’ workplace and need some help, please look at my website here.

What Does ‘Respect’ Look Like At Work?

Everything I’ve read and researched has revealed these fundamental facts.

That in some situations it is necessary to sit down and refresh or re-learn what respectful, healthy and compassionate online and offline conduct feels and looks like at work. After all, we find ourselves doing this at home, especially with our teenagers!

We also need to be more aware of how our thoughts and emotions influence our own behaviour, and be more considerate about how our conduct affects the people around us.

A New Hope: How To Grow Creative, Healthy and Engaged Workplaces

So, what does this mean for all of us going forward? It means that, to thrive, our leaders and employees need two things to prevent or block dysfunctional workplace behaviours, attitudes and beliefs (culture) and create healthy, respectful and civil ones.

First, a methodology is needed to actively build and maintain respectful, healthy team and workplace cultures (behaviours, attitudes, beliefs, etc.). Second, we need to give leaders, workers, HR, OHS, L&D professionals the right strategies and skills to expertly diagnose, and safely interrupt, dysfunctional conduct early, before it turns toxic and harms well-being or productivity.

This means the bad behaviours and attitudes become outliers, and when you witness or experience any type of dysfunctional behaviour you have the skills and confidence to nip it in the bud early, without making matters worse. I’ve named this two-pronged program “the Creative, Healthy and Engaged Workplaces Initiative”.

Dr Felicity (Flis) Lawrence, founder of Happier Workplaces, has a PhD in organisational social psychology and 25 year’ experience in private, military and government workplaces.  She provides you, leaders, managers and workers with strategies to build healthy, respectful team and workplace behaviours, and to quickly spot and safely stop dysfunctional work conduct like bullying and harassment. Contact Dr Flis at: [email protected], or follow her on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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6 years ago

Awesome article, and thanks for introducing me to Sinek!

Keep them coming.